05/08/2014 12:16PM

Meadowlands: Dovuto Hanover ready for TVG challenge

Lisa Photo
Dovuto Hanover has four wins and two seconds in nine Meadowlands starts in 2014.

The championship season for aged pacers will begin in essence on Saturday night as a field of 10 goes to post at the Meadowlands in the $50,000 first leg of the TVG-FFA series. While the near $6.2 million winning Foiled Again looks to rebound from consecutive defeats, another son of Dragon Again will look to make his mark against most likely the toughest field he’s ever faced. Trainer Darran Cassar has a ton of belief in Dovuto Hanover and is not overwhelmed by the field.

“He’s got the speed and he definitely belongs with this company,” Cassar said, “I wish he had drawn better but I think he’ll race well.”

This has been a comeback year of sorts for Dovuto Hanover, a four-year-old that made just eight starts last year and a shade under $20,000 in 2013. This year he’s already made a dozen starts, with five victories and earnings approaching six figures.

“We’ve been able to keep him sound and that’s a big difference,” said Cassar.

The trainer has also kept his horse primarily on the big track at the Meadowlands and that suits him just fine. “I wouldn’t mind seeing him in a six-horse field,” said Cassar, alluding to Dovuto’s incredible sprinting ability and his string of :25 2/5 final quarters.

Last week Dovuto Hanover competed in the Van Rose Memorial at Mohegan Sun at Pocono Downs and all didn’t go as well as planned. Sent off as the 9-5 favorite in the field, the gelding was unable to make up ground in a rapid pace and had to settle for fourth place, beaten five lengths by Dancin Yankee.

“That wasn’t his kind of mile,” said Cassar, “He was hitting his knee on the turn.” Combine those problems with a :26 2/5 third quarter and it’s easy to understand the off-the-board finish.

“There’s no question he likes a long straightaway,” said Cassar.

There will be plenty of straightaway at the Meadowlands on Saturday, but post eight in the talented field of 10 is certainly an obstacle that could stand in his path. Then, of course, there’s the presence of the three-pronged Ron Burke-trained entry of Foiled Again (post three), Sweet Lou (post five) and Bettors Edge (post nine). The return of two standout stallions by the impressive sire Ponder should add plenty of luster to the equation. When last seen at the Meadowlands, Thinking Out Loud scorched the oval in 1:47 2/5 winning the U.S. Pacing Championship in the next-to-last race in front of the old grandstand. Now recovered from injury, Thinking Out Loud will look for his third straight win of 2014 from post two. The other Ponder stallion of note is the extremely fast Bolt The Duer. Following three qualifying miles at Pocono, the Peter Foley-trained horse should be ready to assert his splendid early foot from post six.

Not to be overlooked in the field is track-record holder Warrawee Needy (1:46 4/5). The five-year-old makes just his second start of the year from post seven. The ageless Golden Receiver hasn’t had the success this winter has he’s had in the past, but the nine-year-old can never be discounted with his impressive Meadowlands résumé. Unfortunately post 10 will make it difficult for him to break a four-race losing streak.

The TVG FFA event is race seven of 14 at the Meadowlands on Saturday night and it will mark the return of Foiled Again to the scene of last year’s $500,000 TVG FFA final victory. Yannick Gingras will again steer the amazing gelding in quest of his 81st lifetime victory in what will be start number 205. Foiled Again had an extremely poor winning percentage at the Meadowlands in front of the old grandstand but he’ll put an unblemished record in front of the new façade on the line on Saturday night.

It wouldn’t be a total surprise if Foiled Again’s stablemate Sweet Lou turned into a serious factor on Saturday night. After an aborted Levy series attempt, the five-year-old returned with a powerhouse third-place finish in the Van Rose last week. A 1:48 4/5 winner last year at the Meadowlands, Sweet Lou has a great combination of leaving speed and closing speed, an arsenal that has earned him more than $2.1 million during his career.

Race seven is also the first leg in the second Pick Four of the evening with the minimum wager now at a half dollar.